After finishing off the Joker, Batman may have to fend off a Nazi and a biggot on the way to Oscar

Posted by · 10:01 am · January 15th, 2009

Kate Winslet in The ReaderA week ago with the announcement of the Directors Guild Awards (DGA), it seemed Christopher Nolan and “The Dark Knight” were headed for Oscar night, with nominations for Best Picture and Best Director highly likely. But like a full balloon with a slow leak, the air is slowly hissing out as “Gran Torino” and “The Reader” seem to be gaining momentum.

I loved “The Dark Knight.” It was, for me, the best film of the year and highly deserving of top tier nominations. Regardless of its comic roots, Nolan’s accomplishment in giving the film a heart and soul on a grand scale is even greater, and I hope the Academy sees it that way.

“Gran Torino” has gained enormous momentum since being released wide, racking up more than $30 million at the domestic box office.  Audiences are coming in droves to see Clint back on screen.  He surrounded himself with largely or complete unknowns, amplifying is screen presence.  Very shrewd.  Audiences are going to see him, possibly for the last time, as he portrays the sort of character they love to see.

Perhaps we Oscar bloggers have under estimated the power of Clint.  Perhaps we misread the writing on the wall.  The Academy loves Eastwood (as do I), but come one, “Gran Torino” for Best Picture of the year?  It didn’t even crack my top 10 list (though “Changeling” did) and the Oscar Eastwood will possibly win for Best Actor is obviously sentimental.

Like the director’s more recent films, “Flags of Our Fathers” excepted, this is a lean storyline, deceptively simplistic with a power that sneaks up on you. My wife commented that she thought about the film for days after seeing it, the character’s final confrontation in particular, which does not go as we think it will, but is still perfect in every way.

But, again — Best Picture?  The supporting performances are weak, a couple of them downright terrible and the film has no sense of being an ensemble piece.  Some of the younger actors’ line readings sound just like that, and there is a lack of conviction in some of their performances. This is a one man show, an actor’s showcase.  Let the lead actor nomination be enough.

And “The Reader?”  I loved Winslet as always, as she delivers a brilliant performance, but again, are they seriously considering this for Best Picture of the year?  The film is alive when Winslet is on screen, yes.  Beyond that I was not the least bit interested.  Ralph Fiennes, for me, has been brilliant just once, and that was in “Schindler’s List.”  Otherwise I find his ice-cold presence to be ill-suited to the material he chooses.  I understand last minute momentum for “Gran Torino” because it has become a somewhat surprising box office hit, but “The Reader” has struggled to find a strong audience.

But here they are, threatening a Best Picture nomination.  The consensus is that “The Dark Knight” is the weakest link, but “Frost/Nixon” or even “Milk” could succumb.  Due respect to Clint and Ms. Winslet, but I’d be pissed.

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55 responses so far

  • 1 1-16-2009 at 9:20 pm

    Ryan Hoffman said...

    I only say that because someone above (#38), said it was. I don’t stuff like that either, I just can’t understand a sentence that says that film was “thrilling” unless I totally missed something.

  • 2 1-16-2009 at 9:29 pm

    Scott Ward said...

    I really think we have just about every Frost/Nixon and Gran Torino hater posting here at InContention. People, if you look at the majority of the reviews for each film, they are mostly favorable. And for those critics who really disliked either film, there are about just as many who thought that the picture was an excellent, outstanding work.

  • 3 1-16-2009 at 9:30 pm

    Scott Ward said...

    * IS posting here at ….. sorry.

  • 4 1-17-2009 at 4:58 am

    malevolentmuse said...

    Ryan, thrilling is subjective and means different things to different people. To almost everyone the truck vs. Batpod scene in Dark Knight was thrilling because it was a well-staged set piece. To many, quite a bit of Wanted was thrilling because of all the action scenes. To some, myself included but certainly not all, the final day’s interview between Frost and Nixon, which turned into a showdown between interviewer and interviewee, was thrilling because of the historical context and that the interviews had shifted into almost a battle: Frost trying to trip Nixon up and Nixon wanting to say something, but needing to keep his famous temper under control. Just because you didn’t find it to be thrilling doesn’t mean other people did not.

  • 5 1-17-2009 at 5:03 am

    malevolentmuse said...

    I agree with Scott. What I find is people who are negative tend to automatically be more vocal and for some bizarre reason the anonymity of the Internet seems to compound that and make it a million time worse.

    I’m one of the people all of the negative posters here say doesn’t exist: I loved Frost/Nixon. It’s number four on my list for 2008 surpassed only by Slumdog, Dark Knight and WALL-E; pretty good company, I think.